Black nurses and nursing students: you belong

UC alumna's Black Nurse Network connects and supports professionals and students in the region

University of Cincinnati alumna Deasa Dorsey wants Black nurses and nursing students across the Greater Cincinnati region and beyond to know they belong in the profession.

Dorsey, who graduated in 2010 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and teaches undergraduate courses at UC College of Nursing, remembers she could count on one hand the number of Black students in her class. Following George Floyd's murder in 2020, she was inspired to affect change in her professional community. She started the Black Nurse Network, a social, emotional and financial support organization for nurses and nursing students.

Deasa Dorsey, BSN '10

Deasa Dorsey

“Sometimes the nursing field can feel lonely,” she says. “First and foremost, I want everyone to be able to see each other. We exist in the community as professional nurses, nursing students, supporters, mentors. I want students to know we're here and we want to help them.”

The Black Nurse Network hosts monthly meetings and periodic events where nurses and nursing students can network with their peers, learn about career opportunities and talk freely about their unique challenges. On Saturday, Sept. 24, the Black Nurse Network will host a back-to-school celebration at UC's African American Cultural Resource Center to kick off the 2022-23 academic year.

Kelli Beecher, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC

Kelli Beecher

The organization is not directly affiliated with the university and welcomes students from nursing schools and health systems across the region. About 100 individuals are registered for the kick-off event from UC, Mount St. Joseph University, Christ College of Nursing and Health Sciences, UC Health and TriHealth, among others.

Along with Dorsey, the Black Nurse Network is led by Karen Bankston, PhD, MSN, FACHE, FAAN, former associate dean of clinical practice partnership and community engagement for UC College of Nursing, and Kelli Beecher, DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, an alumna of UC's Doctor of Nursing Practice program and clinical instructor for the college. Beecher has helped establish and grow the organization’s mentorship component, whereby students are paired with working nurses who provide one-on-one guidance.

You can just talk and not be afraid to speak up. It's comforting to know others have been through it and they understand.

Aaliyah Dodson UC Nursing Student & AMBITION President

Like Dorsey, Beecher remembers feeling alone as a Black student in nursing school. “It’s a different experience that you go through as a minority,” she says. “It would have been nice to have a mentor when I was starting out.”

The Black Nurse Network has about a dozen students who will meet their mentors at the Sept. 24 event, including Aaliyah Dodson, a third-year student in UC's Bachelor of Science in Nursing program and president of AMBITION, a UC group for minority nursing students. Dodson has previously participated in the mentorship program and says it transformed her time management approach.

“One of my mentors helped me go through my schedule and plan out my entire day so I could better manage homework, class and extracurriculars,” she says. “It definitely helped a lot. After that, I wasn’t rushing or forgetting things.”

Beyond time management and homework help, Dodson says the Black Nurse Network and the mentorship program offer a much-needed safe and supportive space.

“You can just talk and not be afraid to speak up,” she says. “It’s comforting to know others have been through it and they understand.”

Looking ahead, the Black Nurse Network hopes to expand its membership base, accommodate more students in its mentorship program and expand into high schools to introduce young adults to the nursing profession.

For more information about the Black Nurse Network, visit the organization’s website, To receive more information about meetings and mentorship opportunities, email To attend the Back-to-School event, register at (Seats are limited.)

Featured image at top: Karen Bankston, PhD, MSN, FACHE, FAAN, former associate dean of clinical practice, partnership and community engagement for UC College of Nursing, presents during a meeting of the Black Nurse Network. Photo/Submitted

Inclusive Excellence

Inclusive excellence is part of UC's Next Lives Here innovation agenda and an integral piece of the College of Nursing's vision. Read more about the college's efforts foster belongingness and develop culturally humble patient advocates prepared to champion health equity and provide unbiased, safe care to all populations.

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